Hegemony?

The OWS movement has exposed a critical weakness in “hegemony”

This is that all previous revolts were national in scope and unknown to each other. But because through telecommunications, capital can present one face to labour, labour, using that same technology on mobile devices, can flip capital one bird simultaneously all over the world.

In 1984, I asked my au fait friends and business confederates in Lincoln Park where the votes for Reagan were coming from, for it seemed to me that people in my business (software development) weren’t voting for Reagan. Their natural sympathies seemed to lay with Dukakis and Mondale.

I was told that “we” were smart, urban types but “most people” were being taken in. But this was of course belied by the growing persecution of those of my fellow software developers, especially women for taking the humanistic assurances of their managers too seriously.

In software at the time, it was recognized that Death March projects where people worked 24/7 were not working, and that a more humanistic approach was needed. But sub rosa, male managers were bullying the software humanists, and voting for Reagan.

Intelligent people (who might be described as David Mamet types) were adopting masks and in fact becoming conservative as a life-style choice.

Fast forward to today. On Facebook, I noticed that most of my Friends, who were not selected according to any political criteria, were not only liberal but pretty uppity about it. In particular I met Lana Sutton, a sort of Holy Terror in Chattanooga and her confederates.

They were mischaracterized by the Times in 2010 as Tea Baggers because they had allied with the Tea Party in resisting the greed of Chattanooga’s business elite and that elite’s corrupt mayor, Ron Littlefield. But it was clear to me that Lana, the Wounded Warriors, Native Son, Chris Brooks and the rest of the gang except for the most amusing Harry Statel, were the spiritual and physical descendants of easter Tennessee in the Civil War, proud, independent yeomen who hated planters and slaveocracy.

They were consciously on the Left, but the New York Times didn’t report it. The answer to the Astro Turf (the Tea Bags and Hags) was silently building.

But historically, when the ruling class cannot any more ignore dissent, it can divide them according to nation and the limitations of technology.

1649 in Britain was viewed by a Europe exhausted by its recent continental Thirty Years War as just strange in that it killed its King.

1776 was another anomaly although supported by France (strictly to get a whack at the British). Note how decisive was the support, not only of France but also of Holland and Spain in the American Revolution.

1789, although it inspired Germans and Brits, was almost immediately characterized as French nonsense owing to the excesses of the Terror. The young United States almost immediately disavowed any truck with the French, and the Adams administration passed Alien and Sedition because of the Federalist’s desire to avoid a French contagion. The figure most sympathetic to the French, Thomas Jefferson, was compromised by his slaves and his relationship to Sally Hemings.

The response of the aging revolutionaries themselves to Haitienne revolt, to American slaves, to women, and to the propertyless male was always, “oh, we didn’t mean you when we talked about the People”, and absent Facebook, people could not find that people are in actuality one species.

[Mark Zuckerberg is an idiot and it started out as college hijinx, but Facebook is world historical and Hegel’s Cunning of Reason.]

In the great European revolution of 1848, each manifestation, the Chartists in Britain, the rebellion against the Orleans monarchy in France, and the rebellions in Munich and Vienna, were separate and separately defeated. The news of the European revolution arrived too late to the USA for its workers to demand an end to slavery. My ancestors had to high-tail it out to Missouri one step ahead of the Polizei and soon enough became Republicans…in part because they hated slavery but later on because they liked money. Who doesn’t?

Even in 1968, DeGaulle was able to isolate the French students. France had heavy industry and a dense transportation network, using technology that needed skilled men to show up reasonably sober and ready to work…or walk out if the boss was unreasonable. These chaps were bought off in France with higher wages and better benefits while the students were tossed in jail.

Nixon’s strategy was quite different at the time. He appealed to the “silent majority” because when you leave school and get a job, you indeed internalize repression. For example, you buy a nice watch to get to work on time, and it gives you pleasure. Marcuse never said that this repression was evil he did say that a surplus of it is generated, creating stunted personalities. Fromm, at the same time, pointed out that surplus repression destroys our ability to love.

But, Nixon found that surplus repression creates votes when people who actually would like to spend their time drinking wine and making love are marshalled against the people who, in their collective consciousness, actually are doing this. The American working class, unlike the French, had by 1968 already been bought off. It was mobilized spiritually against an illusion.

In Germany at the same time, the students demonstrating against the thought control of a “free press” whose freedom was undercut (in a way that prefigured Murdoch) were burning Springer’s news trucks.

Oops, there goes my royalty checks from Apress, now a division of Springer. Oh well. I have never made much from “Build Your Own .Net Language and Compiler”.

German politicians used a combination of working class bribes in the French manner, and USA style “silent majority” politics because the Germans hadn’t dealt with their dark recent past.

In 1989, a world rising against “Communism” occured but China was able, as a unique culture, to stop it at Tianamen Square. Gorbachev, being undercut by the complete lack of meaningful American aid for his transition, was unable to exert the pressure he’d exerted on Honecker (the East German leader/diehard) on Deng. Because of China and the Soviet Union’s numerous conflicts, Deng was able to go his own way.

The considerable technological and political differences among world societies as late as 1989 caused each revolution to succeed or mostly fail on its own. The Big Lie in Europe was that all European states were really the same, which implied the false proposition that Portugal could compete with Germany. Instead, Portugal (and Greece, and Ireland) were given credit which made them appear to be prosperous and on the same level playing field. Today, this has resulted in disaster. You cannot pretend the unlike is the like.

But apart from boundaries, there is a unique opportunity today for labor to confront capital with its demands, because capital is more alike across national boundaries, along with technology. Tianamen Square was the very first news story I received on the Internet: I was in Princeton’s computer lab and a Chinese student brought my attention to amber upper case characters on a green screen that were reporting the tragedy in real time. But hardly anyone had access to the Internet at this time.

But now, just as the same banks are in the City of London, Wall Street and here in Hong Kong, they can be confronted in a unified way.

The great prophet of the free market, Adam Smith, didn’t decry labour unions in part because labour unions did not exist in 1776. He did decry combinations of capital acting as one such as the East India Company. But that’s what we have today in the form of corporations who all subscribe to the same ideology.

Each one, in a crazymaking fashion, preaches a false Gospel of education, skill and hard work. But capital destroys education, and truly skilled computer programmers discover in “performance reviews” that their putative skill needs to include “responsiveness to the needs of the user” (Newspeak, in many instances, for “the slavishness and subservience of a 19th century hotel maid”).

And “hard work” truly can have a negative sign in a white collar world when you truly solve the wrong problem.

The unity of capital CREATES unity when people realize in Chattanooga that they have the same problems, with banks, as they do in Hong Kong and New York.

Nobody planned the fact that Africans would today mobilize using inexpensive commodity cell phones. No, they were supposed to listen to funded lies such as were spread by radio, one-way, to mobilize Hutu against Tutsi in the Rwandan genocide of 1995, or white-funded Zulu lies during the hostel war in South Africa in 1992.

They weren’t supposed to talk back. Oops.

In other words, strange rumblings and flashes in the sky are being reported around Highgate Cemetery:

A common slave–you know him well by sight–
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches join’d, and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remain’d unscorch’d.
Besides–I ha’ not since put up my sword–
Against the Capitol I met a lion,
Who glared upon me, and went surly by,
Without annoying me: and there were drawn
Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women,
Transformed with their fear; who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noon-day upon the market-place,
Hooting and shrieking.

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE? An End-Note

When they spoke of the People, the original Romans of the Republic meant the Patricians and not the Publicans. But the Publicans were also wealthy property owners, just new money enriched by Rome’s early expansion. And the Romans never meant the unemployed urban masses, consisting of the descendants of free smallholders dispossessed by big landowners.

And wow they never meant Spartacus or Jesus. We were taught nonetheless as a part of my “classical” education that the Greeks and the Romans invented democracy.

But…God is not mocked.

When the Roman elite stopped paying their taxes or serving in the Roman army, the whole thing, unlike the contemporary Han empire of the slightly more sagacious and slightly more egalitarian Chinese, collapsed as the Western world may be collapsing.

The ordinary slob under the Han empire simply had more of a stake in society through land ownership, the absence of any tradition of “primogeniture”, and the precursors of a society open to talents which later became the examination system.

They don’t mean you, if you don’t have property, if you’re nonwhite, if you have a vagina, if you are gay, if you’re a computer nerd, or you are just weird. This exclusionary principle needs to be examined. It was applied by the white French to Toussaint l’Ouverture, by white Americans to blacks, by homeowners to renters, by developers to homeowners in Chattanooga, and always, by men to women, and grave, intelligent, and well-read children thrown into boarding schools.

They never mean you until you say whoa, fuck this shit, am I not a man and a brother? Are we not men? Is not humanity one species? And, as Abigail Adams said, what about the Ladies? Abigail’s question may be the most important.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: